Tory MP on niqab issue: ‘Stay the hell where you came from’
Conservative backbencher Larry Miller has apologized for his “inappropriate” comments about women who wish to wear a niqab during the ceremonial citizenship oath.
OTTAWA—A Conservative backbencher is backing away from suggesting women who refuse to remove their niqab during a ceremonial citizenship oath should “stay the hell where you come from.”
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller issued a retraction Tuesday morning for the comment, made to a local call-in show on Monday.
“If you’re not willing to show your face in the ceremony that you’re joining the best country in the world, then frankly . . . if you don’t like that or don’t want to do that, then stay the hell where you came from,” Miller said during the show.
“I think most Canadians feel the same. That’s maybe saying it a little harsh, but it’s the way I feel.”
After the comments were picked up by the left-wing website Press Progress Tuesday, Miller issued a statement saying the way he felt was inappropriate. But neither Miller, nor the Prime Minister’s Office, backed away from their position that residents should be forced to remove their niqab during the citizenship ceremony.
“(Miller) made inappropriate comments that went beyond our clear position, and he has apologized for that,” wrote Carl Valée, a spokesman for the PMO, in an email.
“We believe most Canadians, including new Canadians, would find it offensive that someone would cover their face at the very moment they want to join the Canadian family.”
Miller’s comments came in relation to a question about Zunera Ishaq, the woman who successfully challenged the Conservatives’ niqab ban in federal court. Writing in the Star on Monday, Ishaq said she’s perfectly happy to remove her niqab before the ceremony to identify herself.
“I will not take my niqab off at that same ceremony for the sole reason that someone else doesn’t like it, even if that person happens to be Stephen Harper,” Ishaq wrote.
Defending his government’s position last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.” The Conservatives intend to challenge the federal court’s ruling that would allow Ishaq to take the oath while wearing the face covering.
NDP multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash accused the Conservative leadership of promoting “trickle-down racism.”
“The comments are totally reprehensible, and they have absolutely no place in the Canadian conversation,” Cash said Tuesday.
“For a member of Parliament especially to be espousing this kind of crap is just outrageous.”
Cash said the Conservatives have had a recent trend of racially-charged comments, pointing to Conservative MP and former Harper communications director John Williamson’s recent comments about the temporary foreign worker program.
During the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa, Williamson framed the TFW program as paying “brown people” to work while paying “whities” to stay at home on employment insurance.
In a recent speech in Toronto, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused the Conservative government of using the politics of fear to sell their legislation to expand spying powers.
Miller refused to be interviewed on Tuesday.